Saudi Arabia Tourism Revenues

Tourism revenues in saudi arabia increased to 90.86 sar billion in 2022 from 14.72 sar billion in 2021. tourism revenues in saudi arabia averaged 72.13 sar billion from 2014 until 2022, reaching an all time high of 103.35 sar billion in 2019 and a record low of 14.72 sar billion in 2021. source: saudi central bank, tourism revenues in saudi arabia is expected to reach 9500.00 sar billion by the end of 2023, according to trading economics global macro models and analysts expectations. in the long-term, the saudi arabia tourism revenues is projected to trend around 10600.00 sar billion in 2024 and 14200.00 sar billion in 2025, according to our econometric models..

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Saudi Arabia Tourism Revenues


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Saudi tourism revenue grows as budget surplus shrinks

Mosque of the Prophet, Medina, Saudi Arabia

  • Tourism brought in $9.8bn in Q1
  • Surplus halved year on year
  • Vision 2030 targets 100m visits a year

Tourism revenue is beginning to emerge as a serious component on Saudi Arabia’s balance of payments, tripling in a year, and experts see the sector as a “very important” offset to any decline in oil earnings.

While the kingdom’s current account returned another surplus in the first quarter of 2023 of $17.7 billion, this was less than half the size of the year-earlier surplus. 

A 15 percent year-on-year downturn in oil earnings combined with a 24 percent surge in import spending led the surplus to decline from almost $40 billion. 

  • Saudi 2023 growth forecast cut to 1.9% by IMF
  • Saudi tourism appeal growing ‘at the speed of light’
  • Oil cuts take $11bn bite out of Saudi exports

The current account records the value of exports and imports of both goods and services and international transfers of capital.

Tourism revenue surged to $9.8 billion in Q1, more than three times the 2022 level.

With more Saudis spending their vacations at home, the tourism balance was firmly in the black at $6 billion.

Historically, the balance on travel tended to be in deficit. Outflows from Saudi nationals spending their holidays abroad would more than offset earnings from foreign religious pilgrims. 

However, that has all changed over the past year.

Saudi’s Vision 2030 targets 100 million visits by 2030 as well as international air connectivity to more than 250 cities by the end of the decade.

In the context of the overall current account tourism earnings are still small, but they are growing rapidly and promise to deliver meaningful current account diversification, said analysts at Jadwa Investment.

They said rising hospitality capacity for religious pilgrims with an ever-increasing number of hotels catering to a wide range of budgets is partly driving the tourism surplus. 

Administrative procedures have also been streamlined and visas have become more flexible, while there has been a notable increase in tourists from the GCC and Western countries, many of whom are curious to see the social changes underway in the kingdom. 

“Western tourist inflows are coming off a very low base, but curiosity about a country that for a long time appeared to be ‘closed’ is evidently growing,” said Jadwa chief economist James Reeve.

Saudi nationals are also spending more of their holidays and money on the growing number of entertainment and sporting options within the kingdom, rather than travelling to Dubai or further afield. 

Tourism debits have eased to $4 billion in the past year, from roughly $5-6 billion in the pre-Vision 2030 era as a result. 

Reeve described tourism revenue as having “the potential to alter fundamentally the structure” of the Saudi current account. 

“It is unlikely to surpass oil exports earnings, at least not for many years, but it could become a very important offset to any decline in oil earnings. Moreover, it has the potential to create a lot of jobs,” he said in the research note. 

Outside expertise

Despite the sharp rise in tourism revenue, Saudi’s services balance remained in the red as the country increasingly calls on foreign firms to advise on mega-projects integral to Vision 2030.

Last month, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) launched the Saudi Tourism Investment Company (Asfar) to invest in new tourism projects and develop destinations with hospitality and retail attractions in cities across the kingdom.

“By streamlining visa processes, increasing air connectivity, developing multiple tourist attractions and hosting several local and global events, the Saudi government has made significant efforts to attract investment into the country," Saud Alsulaimani, country head for Saudi Arabia at real estate advisor JLL said.

"Today, the kingdom is being recognised as one of the world’s biggest investors in tourism.”

Analysts at Fitch Solutions also observed that strong government support will be the main driver behind the “fast development” of the tourism sector in the coming years.

The Saudi current account was also boosted by a decline in remittance outflows.

These fell from over $10 billion a year ago to $8.1 billion in Q1, suggesting that higher-earning expats are saving more of their income – given the high deposit rates on offer – rather than remitting them.

Saudi Arabia has recorded current account surpluses averaging of 4.5 percent of GDP for the past decade.

It slipped into deficit following the slump in oil prices in 2014 and more recently during the Covid-19 pandemic, but improved to 13.6 percent of GDP last year, the highest ratio since 2013.

While Saudi’s current account remained in surplus in Q1, the financial account – the part of the balance of payments that records the net flow of investment transaction – was firmly in deficit.

This was driven by substantial investments in foreign equity and investment funds, mostly by sovereign wealth fund PIF and other state-owned entities. 

Foreign direct investment (FDI) outflows reached $9.4 billion in Q1, up from just $2.3 billion a year earlier, while inflows totalled $2.2 billion, a 10 percent year-on-year gain.

According to Jadwa, there is “cautious optimism” that intensive efforts to court foreign investors are “beginning to bear fruit”. 

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Saudi Arabia’s Travel & Tourism to Have Fastest Growth in the Middle East Over the Next Decade

saudi arabia tourism income

Saudi Arabia’s Travel & Tourism to have fastest growth in the Middle East over the next decade

Employment in the sector set to double by 2032

Sector expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels by next year

Saudi Arabia to host WTTC’s 22 nd Global Summit later this year

London, UK: The World Travel & Tourism Council ( WTTC ) has revealed the Travel & Tourism sector in Saudi Arabia is expected to grow at an average of 11% annually over the next decade, making it the fastest growing Travel & Tourism in the Middle East.

According to the forecast from WTTC’s latest Economic Impact Report (EIR), this annual growth, more than six times the 1.8% growth rate of the country’s overall economy, will bolster the economic recovery of the Kingdom.

By 2032, the Travel & Tourism sector’s contribution to GDP could reach nearly SAR 635 billion, representing 17.1% of the total economy.

The forecast also reveals Travel & Tourism employment could double over the next 10 years, creating more than 1.4 million jobs, to reach almost three million employed within the sector by 2032.

The projections for both employment and the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom's economy, surpass the ambitious goals set out by the government’s Vision 2030 strategic framework.

By 2023, following two years of heartache, Saudi Arabia’s Travel & Tourism sector's contribution to the national economy could surpass pre-pandemic levels, when it is projected to rise 2% above 2019 levels, to reach nearly SAR 297 billion.

Employment in the sector could also exceed 2019 levels by 14.1%, creating more than 223,000 additional jobs, representing nearly more than 1.8 million by the end of next year.

By the end of this year, the sector’s contribution to GDP is expected to grow 15.2% to nearly SAR 223 billion, amounting to 7.2% of the total economic GDP, while employment in the sector is set to grow by 16.1% to reach more than 1.5 million jobs.

According to the global tourism body, the Kingdom, due to host WTTC’s 22 nd Global Summit in Riyadh from 28 November to 1 December this year, is witnessing a faster than average recovery following the government’s total commitment to the Travel & Tourism sector, ensuring it remained at the forefront of the global agenda.

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “Throughout these difficult times for our sector, the Saudi Arabia government has recognised the importance of Travel & Tourism and has led the world in its recovery. Through his leadership, Travel & Tourism will become a driving force of the Saudi Arabian economy and will surpass the goals set out in its Vision 2030 blueprint.

“I would like to commend Ahmed Al Khateeb, who has shown strong leadership during this crisis which has boosted the sector’s growth with unprecedented investments and new approaches to tourism.

“I am delighted the Kingdom is hosting our 22 nd Global Summit, where we will be able to continue our efforts of showcasing the importance of the Travel & Tourism sector and look ahead to the future of travel.”

Before the pandemic, Saudi Arabia’s Travel & Tourism total contribution to GDP was 9.7% (SAR 291.6 billion) in 2019, falling to just 6.6% (SAR 190.6 billion) in 2020, representing a staggering 34.6% loss.

The sector also supported nearly 1.6 million jobs, before an almost complete halt to international travel which resulted in a loss of 350,000 (22.2%), to reach just over 1.2 million in 2020.

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Saudi Arabia Tourism Revenue Growth

  • Saudi Arabia Tourism Revenue grew 517.4 % YoY in Dec 2022, compared with a decrease of -26.8 % YoY in the previous year
  • Saudi Arabia Tourism Revenue Growth rate data is updated yearly, available from Dec 2005 to Dec 2022
  • The data reached an all-time high of 517.4 % in Dec 2022 and a record low of -80.6 % in Dec 2020

View Saudi Arabia's Tourism Revenue Growth from 2005 to 2022 in the chart:

Saudi Arabia Tourism Revenue Growth

What was Saudi Arabia's Tourism Revenue Growth in 2022?

Saudi Arabia Tourism Revenue grew 517.4 % YoY in Dec 2022, compared with a decrease of -26.8 % YoY in the previous year See the table below for more data.

Tourism Revenue Growth by Country Comparison

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Travel & Tourism - Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia
  • Revenue in the Travel & Tourism market is projected to reach US$4,335.00m in 2024.
  • Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2024-2028) of 2.58%, resulting in a projected market volume of US$4,800.00m by 2028.
  • The largest Travel & Tourism market is the Hotels market with a projected market volume of US$2,930.00m in 2024.
  • In the Hotels market, the number of users is expected to amount to 10.09m users by 2028.
  • User penetration is 28.2% in 2024 and is expected to hit 29.1% by 2028.
  • The average revenue per user (ARPU) is expected to amount to US$410.80.
  • In the Travel & Tourism market, 86% of total revenue will be generated through online sales by 2028.
  • In global comparison, most revenue will be generated in the United States (US$199bn in 2024).

Key regions: Malaysia , Europe , Singapore , Vietnam , United States


The Travel & Tourism market encompasses a diverse range of accommodation services catering to the needs and preferences of travelers. This dynamic market includes package holidays, hotel accommodations, private vacation rentals, camping experiences, and cruises.

The market consists of five further markets.

  • The Cruises market covers multi-day vacation trips on a cruise ship. The Cruises market encompasses exclusively passenger ticket revenues.
  • The Vacation Rentals market comprises of private accommodation bookings which includes private holiday homes and houses as well as short-term rental of private rooms or flats.
  • The Hotels market includes stays in hotels and professionally run guest houses.
  • The Package Holidays market comprises of travel deals that normally contain travel and accommodation sold for one price, although optional further provisions can be included such as catering and tourist services.
  • The Camping market includes bookings at camping sites for pitches using tents, campervans, or trailers. These can be associated with big chains or privately managed campsites.

Additional Information:

The main performance indicators of the Travel & Tourism market are revenues, average revenue per user (ARPU), users and user penetration rates. Additionally, online and offline sales channel shares display the distribution of online and offline bookings. The ARPU refers to the average revenue one user generates per year while the revenue represents the total booking volume. Revenues are generated through both online and offline sales channels and include exclusively B2C revenues and users for the above-mentioned markets. Users represent the aggregated number of guests. Each user is only counted once per year. Additional definitions for each market can be found within the respective market pages.

The booking volume includes all booked travels made by users from the selected region, independent of the departure and arrival. The scope includes domestic and outbound travel.

Prominent players in this sector include online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Opodo, as well as tour operators such as TUI. Specialized platforms like,, and Airbnb facilitate the online booking of hotels and private accommodations, contributing significantly to the market's vibrancy.

For further information on the data displayed, refer to the info button right next to each box.

  • Bookings directly via the website of the service provider, travel agencies, online travel agencies (OTAs) or telephone


  • Business trips
  • Other forms of trips (e.g. excursions, etc.)

Travel & Tourism

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Package Holidays
  • Analyst Opinion

In recent years, the Travel & Tourism market has been under a lot of pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Traveling to other countries became impossible because of lockdowns, restrictions, and health risks, affecting people all over the world. Although the market is recovering from this shock, the pandemic has had a long-lasting impact, with new trends emerging from the crisis. First and foremost, because traveling was not possible for a few years, people were able to save more money, which they now wish to spend on vacations and trips. Since the markets reopened, this phenomenon has become known as “revenge travel.” Furthermore, from a business perspective, a similar growth driver is the slow shift back toward in-person events. Many companies are asking their employees to return to the office, and meetings are being held in person again. Therefore, events may be an additional driver in the coming years. However, a general sentiment for the possibility of flexible working has also spread around the globe. In addition to increasing home-office options for employees, the keyword “workation” has been established as a trend. It describes the combination of working and traveling, whereby flexible workplaces allow their employees to travel and simultaneously work from different countries around the world.

The growing awareness of human impact on the environment has resulted in changes when it comes to tourism, in large part due to the younger generation. Sustainability is playing an increasingly important role for tourists, especially when it comes to the mode of travel. Environmental concerns are also shaping the market and encouraging travel companies to make new and alternative offers for more sustainable travel. In addition, regulations such as the carbon tax could potentially influence the way people travel in general. This is particularly the case when it comes to cruises since they cause high emissions. Consequently, a switch to more environmentally friendly propulsion technologies, such as Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), is being made.

On a global scale, the United States has recovered quickly from the pandemic shock, with especially the Hotels market seeing an increase in bookings. The relaxation of China's travel restrictions will promote an increase in Travel & Tourism, particularly in China but also globally for international travels. Europe’s segments exhibit a good recovery rate, although the geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe is inhibiting outbound travel. The current biggest challenges faced by all markets of the Travel & Tourism market are inflation and increased travel costs, which are caused by the most recent world events.

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  • Travel Behavior
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Saudi Arabia’s Latest Tourism Count – What the Numbers Show

Josh Corder , Skift

February 12th, 2024 at 9:48 AM EST

Saudi Arabia has hit its tourism target seven years early, but there is still work to be done to be a global travel super power.

Josh Corder

Saudi Arabia’s tourism minister says the kingdom counted more than 100 million tourists in 2023 – the numbers show growth in visits from international travelers, but that it still has work to do to become a globally competitive destination.

Here’s the count shared by tourism minister Ahmed bin Aqeel Al Khateeb:

  • Saudi saw 77 million domestic tourists and 27 million international ones, totaling 104 million visits.
  • 77 million is the same number of domestic tourists Saudi had in 2022. The overall figure was boosted by a 11 million international visitors.
  • Al Khateeb highlighted a new strategy set by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to attract 150 million tourists by 2030, with 80 million domestic and 70 million international tourists.
  • Total spending reached SAR100 billion ($26.67 billion) last year.

The Saudis don’t say exactly ‘how’ a domestic tourist can be measured. The ministry’s website defines a domestic tourist as: “The activities of a resident visitor within the country of reference, either as part of a domestic tourism trip or part of an outbound tourism trip.”

Saudi’s Leisure and Religious Travel Mix

Growing leisure tourism is a principal focus; diversifying the county from its historic religious tourism sector that benefits from hajj and umrah pilgrims.

For now, the leisure tourism sector Saudi is trying to build – whether it be through new hotels, festivals, sports events and giga-projects – has mostly pulled in locals.

For Saudi locals, leisure trips have significantly increased. 45% of all domestic trips by locals in the first half of 2023 were for leisure purposes, according to the ministry’s data. In 2022, it was 40% and in 2021 it was 36% of all trips.

For international visitors, 20% visited the kingdom for leisure, while visiting friends and relatives made up 23% and religious tourism accounted for 45%. In 2022, 15% of travelers visited for leisure, while in 2021, it was 9%.

The country’s wave of new developers are looking at ways to appeal to the massive base of religious travelers whose trips start and end in the holy cities.

John Pagano, CEO of Red Sea Global, sees an opportunity for his upcoming projects to extend the stays of these pilgrims.

“Think about the size of that market, one and a half billion Muslims in the world,” Pagano told Skift in an interview last December.

“So if we can tap into that market and have them make it a once-in-a-lifetime trip where they do the religious piece, which is hugely important and then tack on a family vacation at something that’s reasonably affordable, I think it’s a very deep market for us. (Religious travelers) tend to spend more middle and lower end of the (travel) market.”

Located nearer to Jeddah, one of Pagano’s new projects could seek to draw in the city’s many religious travelers. Jeddah is located approximately an hour from Makkah, one of the most important locations in all of Islam.

Spending Increases

Booking expenditures of local Saudi travelers went up by 10.8% last year, while most consumers (75%) chose to book local destinations with low-cost carriers, data from travel company Almosafer, part of Seera Group, showed.

“This indicates that domestic travelers are spending more on in-destination expenses, including accommodation and activities while saving on their journeys,” the travel firm said in a report.

The nation has relaxed its entry requirements by implementing the eVisa program, which now encompasses 63 countries and special administrative regions, along with the GCC residents visa. Additionally, there is a complimentary 96-hour stopover visa available, granting visitors a free one-night hotel stay if they book with the national carrier, Saudia. This stopover visa allows travelers to explore Saudi Arabia and undertake umrah.

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Tags: saudi arabia , Saudi Tourism , Tourism news , travel news

Photo credit: AlUla, Saudi Arabia. Used for illustrative purposes. Seera Group

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'Tourism is the new oil': How Saudi Arabia is targeting an influx of travellers

The kingdom now claims the title of the world’s fastest growing tourism destination.

Saudi Arabia is the world's fastest growing tourism destination and there is a lot more to come said Fahd Hamidaddin, chief executive of Saudi Tourism Authority. Photo: Saudi Tourism

Saudi Arabia is the world's fastest growing tourism destination and there is a lot more to come said Fahd Hamidaddin, chief executive of Saudi Tourism Authority. Photo: Saudi Tourism

Hayley Skirka author image

In September 2019, Saudi Arabia opened its doors to wide-scale tourism for the first time.

Launching its first tourist visa, the kingdom began welcoming visitors from 49 countries around the globe and it wasn't long before travellers were flocking there to explore its ancient history and discover more about a destination that had been sealed off for decades.

But the first chapter of this story was short-lived as the Covid-19 pandemic hit six months later, halting most international travel .

Despite that, tourism within the country thrived and Saudi Arabia now claims the title of the world’s fastest growing tourism destination, according to data from the UN World Tourism Organisation.

Jazan in Saudi Arabia. The Covid-19 pandemic forced domestic travellers to explore what was right on their doorstep. Photo: Shutterstock / Ajmal Thaha

Fahd Hamidaddin, chief executive of the Saudi Tourism Authority, told The National at Arabian Travel Market in Dubai : “During the pandemic, even the wealthiest — the yacht and private jet owners — had no option but to fly within Saudi. So they discovered the country by force, and now they're continuing to discover it by choice.”

And with pandemic restrictions now a thing of the past, Saudi Arabia is gearing up for its next chapter.

42,000 new hotel rooms in the pipeline

In 2022, more than 93.5 million tourists visited Saudi Arabia, 77 million of whom were domestic travellers and 16.5 million were international tourists.

Nujuma, a Ritz-Carlton Resort, is one of several new luxury hotels opening in Saudi Arabia this year. Photo: Red Sea Global

The country has committed $550 billion to tourism development across the kingdom by 2030, the largest global investment in tourism by far. And there are 42,000 new hotel rooms in the pipeline, easily the most in the GCC region, says Hamidaddin.

This initial success has led the country’s leaders to reassess the original 100 million visitor target it set as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 programme and new targets are currently being agreed upon.

Despite the rapid development, there’s still a shortage of facilities to satisfy travel demand. “The main challenges today are a shortage of airlifts, accommodation and experiences,” says Hamidaddin.

Saudi Arabia’s home-grown version of Airbnb

One company aiming to help fill that gap is Gathern, currently the country’s best performing tourism company says the Saudi Tourism chief executive.

“Gathern is the alternative Airbnb, the Saudi version. It’s a home-sharing platform that started with a few hundred listings and I think today it has exceeded 20,000 across the country,” says Hamidaddin.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Gathern | جاذرإن (@gathernapp)

Listings include all types of accommodation from villas, farms and caravans to yachts and rustic chalets. There is also a wide variety of room rates on offer, catering towards different budgets — something that seems to be missing from many of the country’s tourism megaprojects.

From Banyan Tree AlUla to Six Senses Southern Dunes (launching as the first resort at The Red Sea destination in the coming months) or the Four Seasons heading to Neom’s Sinadalah Island, luxury accommodation seems to be the focus. However, it is a trend that the country's tourism authority are aware of.

Six Senses Southern Dunes will be the first resort to open at Saudi Arabia's The Red Sea destination later this year. Photo: Foster+Partners

“It’s important that we cater for all travellers, by social income class and by travel purpose. People that travel for wellness are very different than those that travel for adventure, culture and events. And so we need to make sure that our offering is looked at holistically,” says Hamidaddin.

In Riyadh — home to the towering Kingdom Centre and historic Masmak fort — there are plenty of hotel options to choose from, ranging from budget stays to luxury boutique hotels. But even here, there’s work to be done.

“Riyadh has so many hotels, many of which are on highways. But when I think of Dubai, the best performing hotels are not the ones on Sheikh Zayed Road, people don’t want to stay on a highway. I think what we want is to ensure that travellers can come and find a place to stay, and things to do that are connected and accessible,” says Hamidaddin.

Changing perceptions of a kingdom

'I think the people are the most telling about what this country is,' said Hamidaddin. Photo: Saudi Tourism

Hamidaddin accepts there are other challenges facing Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry, including how the country is still perceived by some internationally.

“In every industry, in any market, when a new brand comes in, there are the early adopters, the followers, the laggers and there are the sceptics that will never try that brand, that will say it’s not for me, and that’s fine.”

Fahd Hamidaddin, chief executive of the Saudi Tourism Authority. Reuters / Abdel Hadi Ramahi

“The best way to address the perception of Saudi Arabia is by having travellers come see it for themselves. And that has served us the best.

“The early adopters have been blown away, not just by the offering of the place, but mostly by the people. And I think the people are the most telling about what this country is, and how different from the perceptions and preconceptions that people had.”

Tourism is Saudi Arabia's new oil

Over the coming years, Saudi Arabia will aim to entice travellers with several new destinations and developments.

In Diriyah, the 300-year-old city and birthplace of Saudi Arabia, ancient Unesco-protected sites have reopened to visitors with plans for a boulevard consisting of an opera house, fashion houses, art galleries, cafes and more.

Argentina's Lionel Messi and his wife Antonela Roccuzzo visit Diriyah, the birthplace of Saudi Arabia. Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority  /  AFP

On the Red Sea coast, the site of some ambitious luxury tourism projects, a new airport and the first three hotels in a pipeline of 50 will open this year, offering travellers access to a cluster of unexplored islands and inland sites.

In futuristic Neom , Sindalah Island will open early next year with the launch of three properties from Marriott, including the first Autograph Collection Hotels property in the kingdom.

In 2026, Trojena at Neom will open in the kingdom's highest mountain range. This snow-capped mountain will be the first major outdoor skiing destination in the GCC, and host the2029 Asian Winter Games. It will also offer glamping and nature-laden stays at Collective Trojena , the region's first eco-glamp site.

A slew of events, such as electronic dance music festival MDLBeast Soundstorm, the F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Riyadh Season and AlUla Skies hot-air balloon festival are also on the calendar.

MDLBEAST Soundstorm 2022 in Riyadh is one of several events on the tourism calendar. Photo: MDLBEAST Soundstorm

Each of these developments and events are part of Saudi Arabia's mission to diversify away from oil, something that simply cannot be done without tourism.

“The WTTC [the World Travel and Tourism Council] said one of every five new jobs came from tourism in the last decade, and one of every four new jobs will come from the industry in the coming five to 10 years. While other industries lose jobs to robots, these human-led sectors continue to provide and tourism sits at the forefront for us,” says Hamidaddin.

“What we're doing, we are doing for our people, for our economy, and the world is going to reward us. In the 1920s the world came to Saudi for oil, but in the 2020s, we're expecting the people of the world to come for tourism. And that's why we say that tourism is the new oil.”

Grand Hyatt The Red Sea is part of phase one of the mega-tourism project in Saudi Arabia. All photos: The Red Sea Development Company

Grand Hyatt The Red Sea is part of phase one of the mega-tourism project in Saudi Arabia. All photos: The Red Sea Development Company

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saudi arabia tourism income

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Saudi More Than Doubles 2030 Foreign Tourism Target: Minister

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Tourists enjoy panoramic views of the ancient Saudi oasis city of Al-Ula, among a growing number who have beaten a path to the kingdom since it began issuing general tourism visas in 2019

Saudi Arabia drew 27 million foreign tourists in 2023 and has more than doubled its goal for the end of the decade, an official said on Tuesday.

The announcement came less than five years after the Gulf kingdom fully opened up to tourism and as fears persist that the ongoing Israel-Hamas war could engulf the wider region.

"We have reached 100 million tourists this year, 77 million from home, 27 million from abroad, over 100 million," Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb said at a conference organised by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, describing the 2023 figures.

Authorities now hope to hit 150 million tourists by 2030, up from an earlier goal of 100 million, with 70 million of those coming from abroad, up from an earlier goal of 30 million, he said.

Tourism is an important element of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform agenda, which aims to help the world's biggest crude exporter transition away from fossil fuels and prepare for an eventual post-oil future.

Home to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia has long welcomed pilgrims as well as business travellers, but it inaugurated a general tourism visa only in 2019, just months before the coronavirus pandemic decimated the industry globally.

While the kingdom has in recent years relaxed rules barring cinemas, gender-mixed concerts and sporting extravaganzas, other regulations including an alcohol ban remain in place, potentially denting its appeal.

New resorts along the Red Sea coast are expected to be a major draw, though recent attacks on Red Sea shipping by Huthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen have revived security concerns in the area.

The Huthis, who have been at war with a Saudi-led military coalition since 2015, say their attacks are an act of solidarity with Palestinians and a protest against the Israel-Hamas war that has been raging in the Gaza Strip since October.

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Travel, Tourism, and Entertainment is a priority sector under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic diversification initiative.  The Saudi Arabian government aims to increase domestic household spending related to entertainment and leisure activities, and to transform the country into a major global travel destination. 

The entertainment sector perhaps more than any other reflects the remarkable transformation of Saudi Arabia during the past six years.  In 2018, the government ended the 30-year ban on cinemas.  By April 2022, there were 56 movie theaters in Saudi Arabia that had presented more than 1,144 films, and the inaugural edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival featured 138 films and shorts from 67 countries in 34 languages.  Saudi Arabia has established a Media City in Riyadh in order to create a multiservice media ecosystem to support and enable content and talent creation. 

The progressive opening of the entertainment sector has spurred an ambitious construction pipeline of movie theatres, theme parks, live mega events, and sports-related infrastructure.  The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in entertainment companies in recent years. Some of the companies that PIF has invested in include Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive Software and Live Nation.   Moreover, the tremendous success of Saudi Seasons – an annual series of festivals across cities offering pop concerts, car races, pop-up restaurants, auto shows, and other entertainment programs – indicates the pent-up demand in this sector.  The General Entertainment Authority has pledged to invest up to $64 billion by 2028 to develop Saudi Arabia’s domestic entertainment sector. 

The entertainment sector has achieved impressive growth  over the past six years: the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) issued a total of 11,400 licenses and permits for the entertainment sector that drew over 120 million attendees through the end of 2022. In addition, this sector saw the creation of more than 100,000 jobs, and more than 1,000 companies are working in this sector.

On the tourism front, Saudi Arabia plans to welcome over 100 million visitors annually by 2030.  To this end, it has implemented numerous initiatives including an e-visa system for citizens of 57 countries, the opening of its UNESCO World Heritage sites, the construction of resorts on its Red Sea coast, and the launch of a cruise line.  In October 2021 the Ministry of Tourism announced a $1trn investment package for the sector over the next 10 years.   The Ministry also stated that it would actively work with private sector investors to capitalize on new growth opportunities over the coming years as tourism enters a post-COVID pandemic rebound phase. 

Saudi Arabia is making billions of dollars in investments in sports teams, infrastructure, and events at home and abroad, from football to golf to Formula 1 to video games.  The Kingdom’s sports strategy, implemented primarily by the Public Investment Fund, is a key pillar of the Vision 2030 program to diversify the economy and transform the country’s social structure. 

Key Players in this Sector

  • Ministry of Tourism
  • Saudi Tourism Authority: The official promoter of Visit Saudi, this government entity was established to support the growth of the travel and tourism sector by serving the needs of tourism companies and other commercial partners. 
  • Tourism Development Fund:  This fund is responsible for attracting and supporting investments and providing the support to incentivize development of the tourism ecosystem. 
  • General Entertainment Authority: This government entity’s mandate is to develop the entertainment sector and its infrastructure. 
  • Saudi Entertainment Ventures: The entity is the implementation and investment arm of the Public Investment Fund dedicated to the entertainment sector. 
  • General Commission for Audiovisual Media: This commission is tasked with the development, regulation, and supervision of audio-visual media transmission and content within the country.
  • Ministry of Culture and Culture Commissions:  This ministry is focused on developing Saudi Arabia’s visual arts, performing arts, film and music.
  • Ministry of Sport: This ministry is responsible for sports in Saudi Arabia. It was previously known as the General Sports Authority. 
  • Saudi Convention & Exhibition General Authority: This authority is concerned with developing the exhibitions and conferences industry to make Saudi an international center for exhibitions.

Leading Sub-Sectors 

Religious Tourism

Currently religious tourism remains the largest economic contributor in the tourism sector.  To increase the benefits that stem from religious pilgrimages, the government aims to increase its capacity to accommodate more Hajj and Umrah visitors – from approximately 10 million visitors per year in 2019 to over 30 million by 2030.  This is expected to increase the demand for hotels and other tourist services in Mecca and Medina. 

Resort Destinations

The Red Sea Project aims to be a world-class tourism destination offering pristine beaches, leisure and entertainment amenities, natural reserve of marine life, and dormant volcanoes and mountains.  Three hotels will open by the end of 2023, followed by another 13 hotels next year. Once completed, the Red Sea Project will have about 50 hotels, with more than 8,000 hotel rooms.  The project is in a special economic zone, with its own legislative and regulatory system, strategic location, and streamlined visa requirements to ensure the destination is inviting to travelers throughout the year, who are expected to reach one million a year by 2035.  Also called  the Riviera of the Middle East, Amaala is an ultra-luxury tourism destination located on the northwestern coast of Saudi Arabia.  Focused on art, wellness, and lifestyle, Amaala will be a destination for the connoisseurs of fine living, targeting the world’s top 2.5 million ultra-high net worth travelers.  Spread over an area of 3,800 square kilometers, upon completion it will have 2,500 luxury hotel rooms, 700 residential villas and apartments, and a golf course.  The Sindalah luxury resort island at NEOM is scheduled to open its first hotel to guests in early 2024.

Cultural Heritage Sites     

The city of Al Ula, home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in the northwestern region of the country and features historical and cultural assets such as Mada’in Saleh, the second largest Nabatean heritage site after Jordan’s Petra.  The Saudi government is transforming the city into a cultural, eco-tourism destination that is expected to offer various recreational activities including sightseeing, hiking, camping and other desert-friendly sports and festivals.  Closer to Riyadh, the historic city of Diriyah showcases Saudi Arabia’s 300-plus years of culture and history by delivering one-of-a-kind, inspiring heritage experiences, educational and cultural opportunities, world-class residential living, and outstanding lifestyle offerings to include shopping, entertainment, and dining experiences.  At the heart of the development is the At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site, an iconic mud-brick city, and the home of the First House of the Al Saud family and capital of the First Saudi State, preserved and restored for future generations.  Diriyah will offer 20 luxury hotels, over one hundred cafes and restaurants, eight museums and galleries, a golf course, and a racetrack.

Entertainment and Sports Venues

Qiddiya is planned to be the world’s largest entertainment city, almost three times bigger than Walt Disney World.  It will feature over 300 leisure and entertainment facilities, including a 20,000-seat clifftop stadium, motorsports facilities, the world’s largest Six Flags theme park, a world-class waterpark, golf courses, cinemas, and a performing arts theatre.  Qiddiya aims to attract over 14 million visitors per year.

The Jeddah Central Project, formerly called New Jeddah Downtown aims to create a world-class destination at the heart of the city. The development will include a state-of-the-art oceanarium, an opera house and a sports stadium, alongside more than 17,000 residential units, 2,700 hotel rooms, a marina, a beach and several green spaces.

At four times the size of New York City’s Central Park, King Salman Park in Riyadh is envisioned as the “Green Heart” of Riyadh and the largest urban park in the world.  It will include residential compounds, hotels, retail space, an arts complex, theatres, museums, cinemas, sports venues, water features, restaurants, and an 18-hole golf course.

The Sports Boulevard in Riyadh will stretch 135 kilometers from end-to-end and feature green pedestrian pathways, cycling lanes, horse-riding tracks, arts centers, museums, studios, libraries, conference halls, and indoor sports facilities.

Investment opportunities in stadium development, sports, football and games solutions are expected to increase, creating more opportunities for private and foreign partnerships.  Saudi Arabia aims to create and host world class sporting events, attracting globally respected sporting brands, championships and events to Saudi Arabia.  It has hosted the Diriyah ePrix, the PGA European Tour, the WWE Crown Jewel, the Clash on the Dunes Boxing Heavyweight Title Fight, the Saudi Cup Horse Race, and the Saudi Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Saudi Arabia’s billion-dollar gaming industry is expected to double in the next three years.  Saudi Arabia has 23.5 million gaming enthusiasts, or 67 percent of the total population. Gaming consumption is expected to grow from $959 million in 2020 to $6.8 billion in 2030. The Public Investment Fund has acquired more than $3 billion-worth of stock in U.S. video game makers Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two Interactive Software.


  • Workforce talent development across all travel, tourism, food & beverage, and entertainment sectors
  • Consulting, master planning, management, production and concept design of family entertainment centers, theme parks, water parks, aquariums, museums, car racing tracks
  • Hotel build, infrastructure, technology and consultancy services
  • Hotel equipment, furniture, restaurant and kitchen equipment, bathroom accessories
  • Spa and fitness equipment, water sports equipment, specialized equipment for remote (off-grid) lodging
  • Facilities management
  • Destination management companies; tour packaging services especially in niche segments
  • Hospitality franchise, concession development and operations
  • Major branded attractions, events, exhibitions, and live shows
  • Integrated solutions for the cinema industry and film production, broadcasting, digitization, content development, audiovisual and acoustics equipment, studio engineering and management, and talent procurement (actors, models and performers)
  • Stadium development, sports fields, and other sports venues
  • Education in design and development of gaming software and applications
  • Saudi Tourism Authority
  • Tourism Development Fund
  • General Entertainment Authority
  • Saudi Entertainment Ventures
  • General Commission for Audiovisual Media
  • Ministry of Culture and Culture Commissions
  • Ministry of Sport
  • Saudi Convention & Exhibition General Authority
  • The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia
  • Arabian Travel Market
  • Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo
  • Saudi International Media & Broadcast Expo

For more information, contact [email protected] .

saudi arabia tourism income

The Kingdom has planned an investment of USD810 billion in culture, leisure, and entertainment over the next decade. The strategy has significantly contributed to enhancing the country's attractiveness as a tourist destination and the kingdom plans to make progress toward its goal to have 100 million visitors in the country by 2030.

There have been increased focus upon creating a brand-new hospitality landscape in the country by launching giga projects across the Kingdom and some massive leisure projects on the western coast. "Amaala project", "Qiddiyah project", "Red Sea project" and other such projects are expected to promote Saudi Arabia's heritage, and thus contribute towards the growth of Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market.

Religious traveling by national and international visitors as well as increasing personal disposable income are expected to drive the growth of Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market. Growing affordability of airline travel and rising expenditures by tourists towards foods, souvenirs, clothing, etc., are expected to encourage the growth of Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market during the next five years.

Objective of the Study:

To analyze the historical growth of the market size of Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market from 2017 to 2021.

To estimate and forecast the market size of Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market from 2022 to 2027 and growth rate until 2027.

To classify and forecast Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market based on product/service offering, type, purpose of visit, tourist profile, competitional landscape, and regional distribution.

To identify dominant region or segment in the Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market.

To identify drivers and challenges for Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market.

To examine competitive developments such as expansions, new product launches, mergers & acquisitions, etc., in Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market.

To identify and analyze the profile of leading players operating in Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market.

To identify key sustainable strategies adopted by market players in Saudi Arabia travel & tourism market.

Key Target Audience:

Travel & tourisms providers, end users, and other stakeholders

Distributors and suppliers of the related products and services

Organizations, forums, and alliances related to travel & tourisms

Market research and consulting firms

Report Scope: In this report, Saudi Arabia travel & tourisms market has been segmented into following categories, in addition to the industry trends which have also been detailed below: Saudi Arabia Travel & Tourisms Market, By Product/Service Offering:

Ticket Reservation

Hotel Booking

Holiday/Tour Packages

Travel Insurance

Saudi Arabia Travel & Tourism Market, By Type:

Saudi Arabia Travel & Tourism Market, By Purpose of Visit:

Leisure & Recreation

Social Activity

Saudi Arabia Travel & Tourism Market, By Tourist Profile:

Foreign Nationals

Saudi Arabia Travel & Tourism Market, By Region:

Northern & Central

Key Topics Covered: 1. Service Overview 2. Research Methodology 3. Executive Summary 4. Impact of COVID -19 on Saudi Arabia Travel & Tourism Market 5. Saudi Arabia Travel & Tourism Market Outlook 5.1. Market Size & Forecast 5.1.1. By Value 5.2. Market Share & Forecast 5.2.1. By End Users (Individual, Enterprises) 5.2.2. By Application (Smart Cities, Connected Factories, Smart Buildings, Connected Vehicles, Connected Healthcare, Connected Retail, Smart Utilities, Others) 5.2.3. By Communication Type (Fixed Wireless Access, Enhanced Mobile Broadband, Massive Machine-Type Communication, Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency) 5.2.4. By Industry (Manufacturing, Media & Entertainment, Government, Energy & Utilities, Transportation & Logistics, Healthcare, Others) 5.2.5. By Region (Western, Eastern, Northern & Central, Southern) 5.2.6. By Company (2021) 5.3. Market Map 6. Saudi Arabia Individual Travel & Tourism Market Outlook 6.1. Market Size & Forecast 6.1.1. By Value 6.2. Market Share & Forecast 6.2.1. By Application 6.2.2. By Communication Type 6.2.3. By Industry 7. Saudi Arabia Enterprise Travel & Tourism Market Outlook 7.1. Market Size & Forecast 7.1.1. By Value 7.2. Market Share & Forecast 7.2.1. By Application 7.2.2. By Communication Type 7.2.3. By Industry 8. Market Dynamics 8.1. Drivers 8.2. Challenges 9. Market Trends and Developments 10. Policy & Regulatory Landscape 11. Saudi Arabia Economic Profile 13. Strategic Recommendations Companies Mentioned

Mobile Telecommunication Company Saudi Arabia K.S.C.P. (Zain)

Saudi Telecom Company

Etihad Etisalat Company (Mobily)

Integrated Telecom Company

Huawei Tech Investment Saudi Arabia Co. Ltd

Etihad Atheeb Telecommunications Co. (GO Telecom)

Virgin Mobile KSA

Arab Satellite Communications Organization

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Int'l Trade BV Saudi

Nokia Al Saudia

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